Armenians settled in Singapore at the end of the 18th century. Initially, it was the Armenians of Madras who came to Singapore, and then, later on, they were followed by Armenians from Iran, and Malaysia.
At the beginning of the 1820s, there already existed 3 Armenian trading companies. Armenians succeeded greatly in the service sector, they owned many hotels. The Armenian brothers, Martin, Tigran, Avet, and Arshak Sargis, who came to Singapore from Iran, were leading hoteliers of the east. They established“Raffles Hotel” in 1887, which in 1987 was recognized as a national monument, and is popular even today.
One of the historical monuments of Singapore is the Church of St. Gregory the Illuminator, which was the first Christian church in Singapore. The church was built in 1835, consecrated in 1836, and conserved as a historical monument by the government.
The internal life of the community was organized by the National Assembly (the approximate date of foundation is 1833).
One of the representatives of the Armenian community, the floriculturist Agnes Hovakim (Ashkhen Hovakimyan, 1854-1899) left an important trace in the history of Singapore by discovering a type of orchid flower called “Vanda Miss Joaquim,” which is the national symbol of Singapore.
In the 19th century, Armenians founded the lithographic print houses “Arpi” and “Masis.” A periodical called “Usumnaser” was issued from 1849 to 1853. In 1845 one of the well-known members of the community, Kachik Moses (Movsesyan) started the first English-language newspaper called “Straits Times.”
Despite the fact that by 1917 the Armenian community of Singapore decreased in size, it continued an active life. In the same year, a branch of AGBU was founded in Singapore.
During World War II, when the Japanese captured Singapore, together with the other residents, the Armenian community also suffered. The community lost its power to the extent, that even the church didn’t function anymore. It was only in 1996 that the church was reopened during the visit of the Catholicos of All Armenians Garegin I. The street that bordered the church property is called “Armenia.”
In 2018 an exhibition hall of Armenian heritage was opened adjacent to the church. The hall is one of a kind in Asia and represents the movement of Armenians from Iran to India and from there to the different parts of Southeast Asia. It also shows the contribution of the Armenian community to the life of Singapore.
Currently, there are an estimated 80-100 Armenians in Singapore.